Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal might have been a sad memoir, but it’s not because the prose is fiercely beautiful, deeply reflective and empoweringly honest, and because while Jeannette Winterson may be wounded she’s a survivor who doesn’t regret the rough course her early life took. Born in 1959, she grew up in the harsh world of north England’s working class where being paid on Friday meant there might be no heat, light or food by Thursday, where bathrooms were in the backyard and where she was brought up by a disturbed and fanatically religious adoptive mother who lived for Armageddon and the end of the world. Mrs. Winterson, as Jeanette calls her adoptive mother throughout the book, never fully accepted Jeannette into the family, she had thought she would be getting a male baby, and even when Jeannette was elementary school age she used to get locked out of the house all night. By sixteen Jeannette realized she was a lesbian and was kicked out of the family home completely. She was saved, in part, by her consuming passion for books and words, and after reading through most of her local library and putting herself through a local college she eventually was able to attend Oxford. Her autobiographical novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit became an acclaimed bestseller and a widely watched TV miniseries.Jeannette is well read, thoughtful and intelligent and it shows in breadth and beauty of her writing. The book ends with Jeannette meeting her birth mother, which is a difficult and positive step but she doesn’t pretend it’s a happily-ever-after. Instead she gives the reader an honest portrayal of both the strengths and limits of the connection she felt to the biological parent she was meeting for the first time in her fifties.